The Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas started simply enough. After all, who could fault a group of men who banded together to unify their efforts in portraying Santa Claus? But what was once portrayed as a noble effort has reduced itself to a study in human greed, power struggle and the worship of the almighty dollar.
To be a professional Santa these days is to be suspect of all many of character flaws, thanks largely to the infighting men who get paid to portray Santa Claus.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the world of organized Santas is in disarray:
The Amalgamated Santas, one of the nation’s largest Santa groups, are dealing with a schism in their ranks. The rift has left burly bearded men accusing one another of bylaw violations, profiteering and behaving in un-Santa-like ways. Some Santas have filed complaints of wrongdoing against others in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
The once-fraternal Santa impersonators began to split last year when a power struggle unseated their top Santa and most of his board of directors. Further polarizing the Santa world, new splinter groups have formed to woo disaffected Clauses and their allies. The new Fraternal Order of Real-Bearded Santas, for example, also welcomes “affiliates of Mrs. Clauses, Designer Beard Santas and Elves.”
We should have seen this coming, of course. One of the first and most ridiculous rules imposed by AORBS was the insistence that any man portraying Santa Claus had to have a real beard. This ill-thought discriminatory requirement immediately fractured the world of professional Santas. Santa is seasonal work and many who lovingly portray Santa can’t grow a real beard each season (many professional santas do “gratis” work merely for the love of the holiday season).
There have been other signs of struggles between Santas over the years. Leadership within the Santa community was fought over by high-profile individuals who assumed positions. Loosely regulated organizations were formed and dismantled as the infighting grew over issues such as membership requirements, dues and ethical performance standards of a professional Santa Claus.
But until now, the troubles amongst the elves were largely self-contained. The Wall Street Journal changes all that:
Things became physical that month, when a Santa who had been banished from Elf Net tried to crash a board meeting of Amalgamated Santas at Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel in Buena Park, Calif. The interloping Santa, Ric Erwin of Laguna Niguel, Calif., says he planned to videotape the private meeting at the request of Santas who couldn’t be there. He pushed his way past Mr. Trolli and ended up face-to-face with Mr. Germann near the meeting room filled with Santas. Mr. Erwin says Mr. Germann “used his elbow to bounce me off the wall.” Mr. Germann says he didn’t touch Mr. Erwin. Mr. Trolli says Mr. Erwin “headed into him like a linebacker.” Mr. Erwin was escorted out by security guards.
And Mr. Trolli says his family has been threatened by breakaway Santas, who deny it. “My children have been instructed that, if anyone looks like Santa, to run,” Mr. Trolli says.
As the fractured group of professional Santas now establish competing organizations the Christmas-loving world is left to wonder: what would the real St. Nicholas do?